Top vet seeks your help in vital breeding study

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By Chase Editor Pat McLeod

One of Australia’s most experienced greyhound vets, Dr Ray Ferguson, needs your help … to help you.

Dr Ferguson, who has been closely involved in the industry for the majority of his 50-year career, is leading a University of Melbourne study into when greyhound bitches first come on season and then how often after that.

The Victorian-based veterinarian explains that scientific medical data across almost all areas of a greyhound’s lifespan is sadly lacking.

“The simple fact is we need more data, more science,” he says.

“We are an industry that has a great depth of knowledge and experience, but that needs to be backed up by science,” he says.

“An example. I gave a series of lectures last year for Greyhound Racing Victoria to industry participants on nutrition. I had several trainers coming to me saying ‘I feed my dogs this or this’. And I was able to tell them things like ‘you are doubling up on this ingredient, or that food is inferior to several other foods you could use at the same price’.

Dr Ferguson, who is the founder of the Australian Greyhound Working and Sporting Dog Veterinarians, says that his experience indicates that about half of racing bitches are on medication to stop the onset of oestrus (coming into season).

“Administration of medications to prevent oestrus can cause poor performance in bitches and may affect their ability to have pups,” he says.

“Many very senior trainers do not give their bitches such medication and just work with them coming into season as part of their race career.”

Evidence so far indicates the average that a bitch first comes onto season is about 24 months and then again about every six months after that. They can be out of racing for between 6-12 weeks while on season.

“Although many trainers are very experienced in dealing with this there is no way they can predict when a bitch will come on season and how long it will be between seasons,” Dr Ferguson said.

“This research will enable more accurate advice to be given to greyhound owners and trainers as to when or if they should consider giving their dogs medications to prevent their bitches coming into season.

“It will also enable future studies to be designed with the purpose to recommend safe and evidence-based treatment protocols for the control of oestrus in the racing greyhound bitch, ensuring animal welfare and sustained race performance.”

Working in conjunction with the University of Melbourne Dr Ferguson so far has 30 bitches as part of the research program. He would like about 200.

And all he needs is the data. He doesn’t need to physically see any of the participating bitches.

“They can come from anywhere in Australasia,” he said.

“We need bitches who have not yet had their first oestrus and who are not receiving any preventative medication. The participating bitches will be followed until they have had their second and subsequent seasons.

“The study will only include bitches who do not receive any medication to prevent oestrus.

“All participants have to do is simply provide details of your dog’s identification and date of birth and then we will contact you from time to time to ascertain if your bitch has come into season, or you can contact us if your dog comes into season or if you wish to withdraw from the study.

“No-one else is privy to this information and all participants will receive a copy of the results of the study. The University of Melbourne will also publish the results as a scientific article.”

Anyone who would like more information on the study can contact Dr Ferguson at: rayferg@bigpond.net.au

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